YouTube “predator playlists” feature videos of babies in bathtubs and little girls going bra shopping, a father and researcher told Fox News Digital.
Family vlogging parents, who often post videos of their children on a daily basis, sometimes post videos of kids taking baths, in diapers or swimming. A father is blowing the whistle on these personal videos saying predators compile them into playlists and view children in compromised positions.
“There’s these no name accounts generally that have a dude on the front and they have like 60 to 80 subscribers on them,” ‘The Dad Challenge Podcast’ host Joshua Barbour said. “They have no content posted, but they create their own playlists and in some of these playlists – all there was are kids in bathing suits, kids in diapers, kids at the beach, kids in bathtubs, kids at the dentist, things like that.”
Fox News found 13 of the described playlists, which ranged from tens to hundreds of videos, and shared the playlists with YouTube. The platform removed 7 of the playlists for violating their child safety policy and said they prohibit all content that endangers children.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS VICTIMIZING OUR CHILDREN, BUT WE AREN’T HELPLESS TO SAVE THEM
“We have zero tolerance for predatory behavior on YouTube,” YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi told Fox News in a statement. “Our child safety policy prohibits aggregating innocent videos of minors for such purposes, and we remove playlists that violate this policy. Additionally, we disable comments under videos that could expose minors to predatory attention. We continue to heavily invest in this area and are committed to providing minors and their families the best protections possible.”
The spokesperson told Fox News the company removed “over 2.2 million videos and over 87 million comments for violations of our child safety policies” in Q1 of 2023 and said the majority of posted videos with children are innocent.
“We have a strong record of successfully fighting child sexual exploitation on our platforms,” the statement said. “We work with the industry by offering expertise and technology (e.g. CSAI Match). We encourage user flags and invite specialist NGOs to flag content to us via our Trusted Flagger program. This program includes a number of child safety NGOs.”
Barbour, whose mission is to speak out against the exploitation of children on YouTube, says he paid for engagement analytics of family vlogging channels and the findings showed a high male engagement in posts of little girls.
Barbour said he downloaded analytics for a popular YouTube child star’s Instagram account, which had millions of followers, and he found “70% of the demographics were men over the age of 24.”
“Whenever there is a daughter involved…between seven and 16, the engagement for men was so high it scared the crap out of everybody,” he said. “The people who are watching were just mind blown and the creators know. What they tried to rebut was ‘No, I can see the back end of my analytics,’… but mine isn’t showing their back-end demographics. It’s showing the engagement, who’s watching it… Most predators…won’t subscribe to these people. They don’t want to be associated.”
YouTube channels see a “huge spike in views” when videos are focused on little girls shaving their legs for the first time, talking about starting their menstrual cycles and trying on bathing suits, the creator explained.
“You’ll see this spike across everything that’s…to do with intimate details of their growing up, injuries, puberty, dentists, hair, clothing, bathing suits, all that stuff hugely gets them tons of views,” Barbour revealed. “They know it and then they repeat it, but when they find out why that happened and they don’t change, that’s to me, they care more about the money in the views than they do about the protection of the children.”
In 2019, the YouTube banned comments on videos with minors in response to growing concerns pedophiles were using the comments section to exploit children by time stamping moments where children were in compromised positions, according to a previous Fox News report. However, in 2023, comments are back on the platform.
“All the family vloggers were super upset because it tore away their engagement,” Barbour explained. “Then the predator playlists came out…Some of them had 80, 60, 70 videos of just one family and they’re all swimming… That was a pretty big deal and so these families also know about that, but there’s nothing they can do. They can’t tell someone to remove a playlist. They can’t stop a video from being put in a playlist unless they delete it.”
YouTube told Fox News the platform removes comments that sexualize minors, disables comments on videos that could expose children to predatory attention and offers user privacy settings to control comments. The company did not find comments with violative timestamps in the playlists shared with them.
“We continue to disable comments under videos that could expose minors to predatory attention,” YouTube’s statement said. “For videos that do not potentially expose minors to predatory attention but still feature them, as we shared in our 2019 blog post, our goal has always been to re-enable comments as our ability to catch violative comments improved.”
YouTube users must be 13-years-old or have a guardian enable a channel for them, otherwise accounts will be terminated. Vloggers are cautioned by the company to think if their content puts anyone at risk of negative attention before posting.
Psychologist Dr. Lisa Strohman, who previously worked for the FBI, told Fox News Digital it is “terrifying” the amount of information parents share about their children online. There are currently no laws in place to protect child YouTube stars, who do not have the ability to consent.
“The constant pressure that these kids feel to be perfect online, particularly when you add in that addictive nature of an algorithm that pushes them to create more and more content, obviously is causing anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, self-image issues,” she said.
“Kids are supposed to be able to test out new identities, make mistakes, learn by trial and error and so when they’re on these constant views of a YouTube channel, where their lives are being recorded, all of those mistakes become basically permanent part of them…they’re not naturally going through the development and they’re starting to feel that their value and worth is really tied into views.”
Barbour and Strohman also explained how obsessed fans form dangerous “parasocial relationships” with child stars and believe they really know them based on the intimate details shared about kids online.
“YouTube stars… communicate with their audience directly and it gives them a false sense of intimacy and this illusion ….they think they might know them better than they do,” Strohman said. “It creates that part for a fan that they think they can just show up at their door and do some of the crazy things that we’ve seen happen.”
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Barbour urged YouTube users to stand against child exploitation and stop giving family vloggers views, while Strohman indicted it is best for parents to “use tech as a tool, not as a toy.”
“My call to action is…stop watching them,” Barbour said. “Stop giving them your social media currency, because that’s where they’re making their money.”